|photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca|
This being my first mountain bike race I made quite a few rookie mistakes. Some of the mistakes I knew better but made them anyways and other mistakes were a little bit of a surprise. I thought I’d document my top 5 mistakes so that those thinking about doing their first race can learn from my mistakes without replicating them. So here they are:
MISTAKE #1: Showing up too late.
My race start time was 10:45. In my world I thought I would show up an hour early, pickup my race number, and pre-ride a lap of the course as my warmup. As I arrived they announced there was only another 10 minutes left for the sports division to pick up their race number. This let me know right away I had miscalculated my get ready time. I didn’t realize we would be sitting in the start corral for 20-25 minutes. This mistake would compound to cause several others. ALWAYS ALLOW FOR MORE TIME THAN YOU THINK YOU’LL NEED.
MISTAKE #2: No pre-ride.
I had every intention to pre-ride the course as my warmup, but do to mistake number 1 very little warmup happened and definitely no pre-ride. Lesson learned, you definitely want to pre-ride the course, it makes things like passing, climbing, cornering, descending, and every other action you will be required to do while racing much easier! ALWAYS PRE-RIDE THE COURSE.
MISTAKE #3: Equipment check.
Again thanks to mistake number one I had less than ideal time to run through my bike that morning. I had cleaned it up the night before but forgot to torque spec all the important bike parts that night. One of the first hard corner we raced into I caught my tire hard causing my handle bars to turn but my wheel and fork didn’t and BAM! I was down for my first crash. I hopped back up and started pedaling right away only to find that my handle bars were out of alignment. I pulled over and got my handle bars squared away letting what seemed like another 50 riders by me before I could get going again. Later in the ride I realized as a result of the spill my saddle was pretty dang crooked too. ALWAYS CHECK EQUIPMENT TO ENSURE ITS 100% BEFORE RIDING.
MISTAKE #4: Race start.
I decided to race the Sports Category, which is a category higher than the novice where most beginners start. I chose to do this because I have a limited number of races before my first Xterra and I wanted to the extra distance and exposure to more riders while racing that the sports category offered. I’ve been logging quite a few rides over the last month on my bike and was confident my handling was there but because this was my first race I chose to line up in the back of the group when we started. This wasn’t really a mistake, as a beginner this is where I should have started, but it does make the rest of the race a little more challenging. I was at the back of the pack and spent much of the race stuck behind riders looking for an opportunity to pass, on a 95% single track course that’s much harder to do than I thought. For future races I’ll be a little more aggressive at the start and try to secure a good position up front. HAVE A RACE START STRATEGY!
MISTAKE #5: Crashing!
I hope these lessons of a first time mountain biker help you as I’m sure they will help me in the future. On the day I ended 17th out 55 riders in the Sports Category, results can be found here, while the place wasn't high the experience was awesome and much needed.
After the race Erin and I headed into Le Claire for some Mexican food with friends Justin and Jen who were at the race too. We all (except very pregnant Erin) enjoyed some Mexican beers and had fun sharing war stories. Big congrats to Justin for winning the whole damn Sports race!
For those that have thought about racing a mountain bike but have been intimidated, just sign up for one and give it a go, you won't regret it and I guarantee you have some great stories to share!
Photo courtesy of Eric Roccasecca